Pricey Dental Implants Not Always Necessary, Study Finds
Teeth that are salvageable may be better off treated than replaced, experts say
WebMD News Archive
By Kathleen Doheny
THURSDAY, Oct. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Dental implants are reliable replacements for teeth that are already missing, but they're not always the best choice for diseased teeth, a new study indicates.
Instead, attempts to save the tooth with treatment, especially in cases of gum or periodontal disease, should sometimes be tried first, the lead researcher said. And although the study did not address expense, dental implants are not cheap, costing roughly $3,500 for the complete treatment.
"Preserving teeth by proper periodontal treatment and a careful and frequent maintenance program will probably give the same, and even better, results for the long run," said study co-author Dr. Liran Levin, an assistant professor of periodontology at the Israel Institute of Technology and a visiting assistant professor at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine in Boston.
He reviewed 19 published studies that looked at either implant survival rates or tooth survival rates over at least 15 years. The results are published in the October issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.
Levin found that about 4 percent to 13 percent of teeth not implanted were lost. None to 33 percent of implants were lost. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, an implant is viewed as successful if it is functional for five years in 75 percent of cases.
"This is one of the first reviews comparing the long-term survival of dental implants as opposed to properly treated and maintained teeth," Levin said.
Dental implants are one of the biggest advances in dentistry in the past 40 years, according to the American Dental Association website. The procedure usually requires three phases once the natural tooth is extracted or missing. First, the dentist surgically places the implant -- a post-like device that serves as an anchor -- into the jawbone. The bone around the implant is allowed to heal. An artificial tooth is made to fit over the implants.
Based on the results of the review, Levin said he tells patients: "When advised to extract a tooth, don't rush into that. Try to seek a second opinion, be sure to treat the disease [if any] and eliminate it before going through dental implantation. Always ask about the possibility not to extract."